Wednesday, January 26, 2011


One of the more common statements I get when I tell people I paint pictures is, "Oh, isn't that sooo relaxing?"



You kidding me?  Relaxing?

Yeah, it's relaxing alright.  As relaxing as a knife fight.  As relaxing as a swim with sharks.  As relaxing as engine trouble at 37,000 feet.  Let me put it another way-- no, I don't find it relaxing. 

You see, when I'm painting, every watt of power in my little brain is focused on the end of my paint brush.  Each stroke can come out just right, or a disaster.  The color note that looked good on the palette is completely wrong when I put it on the canvas.  That nice, flowing brush stroke just overlapped into another section, and smeared the color.  That little tweak I gave that perfectly good passage just turned it into a frozen pile of mud.  Things go wrong.  So I am completely focused on the task at hand.  Does that sound relaxing to you?

Now, on the other hand, occasionally something really cool happens.  That's when a passage turns out better than I had any reason to hope for.  Then I'm all jazzed up.  I'm jumping around the studio, doing back flips, patting myself on the back, acting like the Red Sox just beat the yankees!  (A common occurrence these days, but still exciting).  I go charging on, anxious to see if the rest of the painting will turn out as good.  Doesn't really sound all that relaxing, now does it?

There are some things about painting that are not heart palpitating and stress inducing.  Doing initial underdrawings, underpaintings or detail work--while very important-- can be somewhat dull.  Some may even say boring.  And boring isn't relaxing.  We don't go to spas to be bored.  We don't take vacations to be bored.  So there's another strike against painting being relaxing.  The truth is, when you put your heart and soul into any effort, it's not relaxing.  Not if you care about how it turns out.

So, what do I do to relax after a hard day's painting?  Why, I turn to the most relaxing person there ever was--

Mr. Relaxation, Perry Como!



Karen Martin Sampson said...

I always find it interesting that painting is a recommended "therapy" for mental patients. Sometimes
I feel like my painting activity is going to turn me INTO a mental patient. All the things you mentioned, that tweaking that screws up what was good, the colour that mixes well but looks completely WRONG for the image on the canvas, and all the rest...I go through daily. I am now semi retired. I don't really have to go out in the cold and snow to trudge to my studio. Yet I do, every day and allow myself to be my own self.
Wouldn't have it any other way...

Kay said...

my friends and family always say that painting must make me happy..well only if it works..most of the time it stresses me out. Glad to know that others feel the same!

Susan Roux said...

Sure glad you didn't use a football analogy... Another stressful subject.

Hey, just think. If painting was so easy and relaxing, we'd get bored with it. Thank God it will always remain stimulating, good or bad. When something finally works, isn't it soooo worth all the aggravation? And how about sales? I know we forget about those, since they're pretty much nonexistent these days. But they're pretty cool too. Cool is not relaxing, soaking in a hot tub is. Perhaps we should try setting up our easels just outside one so we could sit and paint. Hum... maybe you could design this. You'd get rich.